Breaking Down the Developing Chemistry of Peyton Manning and Broncos WRs
With Peyton Manning, it's not a matter of if, but a matter of when and how strong.
Of course, I'm talking about the unparalleled chemistry he formulates with his wide receiving contingent—something he's done remarkably well throughout the duration of his illustrious career.
You know, the seemingly cerebral connection he made with stars like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark and the almost improbable rapport he generated with otherwise underwhelming targets like Brandon Stokley, Marcus Pollard, Jacob Tamme and even Blair White.
When the Denver Broncos got off to a 2-3 start, the chemistry wasn't there yet. Manning's arm may might not have been 100 percent, and, to be fair, we probably shouldn't have expected the Manning connection to be formed instantly in the first place.
During the first half of Monday Night Football's clash with the San Diego Chargers, the connection was still a little loose.
In the second half, though, Manning was absolutely locked in and delivered a vintage comeback that added to his prestigious legacy.
Let's break down how Manning and his receivers finally completed the establishment of their chemistry—a bond that very well may wreak havoc on the AFC for the remainder of the 2012 season.
To start things off, Manning found Joel Dreessen to begin the third quarter. After hitting the tight end on a flare in the flat that resulted in a first down on the Broncos' first play of the second half, Manning and Dreessen hooked up on a perfectly-timed dig route down the seam against San Diego's zone coverage.
That fact that Dreessen wasn't directly covered by anyone pre-snap probably told Manning that the Chargers would be in a zone defense and that the tight end would be open if he ran a sharp route.
After the snap, linebacker Donald Butler dropped into his zone in the middle of the field. Manning, true to his old form, kept the defender moving right (left on the field) to create a throwing lane for Dreessen's in-cut.
Willis McGahee did a marvelous job picking up Takeo Spikes on a blitz, and, exactly when needed, Dreessen made a bolt to the left and was wide open.
You can guess the result.
A few plays later, Eric Decker was found on what Jon Gruden called a "option route" that ultimately became a deep comeback.
Manning received great protection, and the ball was on target and on time as Decker broke back toward the line of scrimmage.
With the score 24-14 Chargers at the start of the fourth quarter, Manning delivered his second-best pass of the night on 3rd-and-16 to familiar target Jacob Tamme.
His Colts teammate was lined up with his hand on the ground on the left side of the formation.
As the play began, the crafty tight end ran what's typically known as a "wheel route," where the receiver goes up, toward the sideline, then down the field.
Because it was a 3rd-and-long situation, San Diego had nearly every portion of the field covered—besides the spot vacated behind linebacker Butler, who was covering Tamme, and safety Corey Lynch.
The route was perfect, and the throw was perfect. The play itself simply couldn't have been executed without a cerebral connection between quarterback and pass-catcher.
Manning and Tamme's time together in Indianapolis may have helped on that play.
The last throw I'll highlight happened to be Manning's most exquisite dime of the night, and it gave the Broncos a lead they'd never relinquish.
Before the snap, Manning was calling audibles as feverishly as I've ever witnessed. He noticed one-on-one coverage to the outside and was fighting a play clock that was nearing zero.
I'll let Gruden's telestrator skills show you the design of the route combination.
With no safety over the top, Stokley had a chance to make a play in the end zone.
Not surprisingly, Manning pinpointed a laser just past the outstretched arms of cornerback Marcus Gilchrist.
So, in his attempt to create the chemistry with these pass-catchers, Manning actually did a tremendous job reestablishing the connections with former Colts teammates in the triumphant comeback win.
Look out. Once he hits his stride with Decker and the physically-gifted Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos will really be rolling.
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